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Driving You Crazy: Should a car stop when there isn’t a crosswalk but there's a break in the sidewalk?

S. Lemay Intersection HZ.jpg
Crosswalk Median Looking East.jpg
Posted at 5:00 AM, Feb 06, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-06 16:24:44-05

Syd from Fort Collins writes, “What’s driving you crazy? If you want to cross Lemay in Fort Collins at Snowy Plain Rd/Mountain Home Drive, there is a break in the sidewalk, but it doesn’t look like a crosswalk. My question, should a car stop and let a pedestrian cross when there isn’t a crosswalk but there is a break in the sidewalk leading to the street? The problem is you can be in the middle of the street, and NO one ever stops.”

Looking at that break in the sidewalk, as you call it Syd, it has all the indications of a regular crosswalk. There is the sloped ramp on both sides of the street and a cutout in the median between the north and southbound lanes. What is missing are the horizontal thick, white crosswalk lines painted along the roadway. What is also missing is any signage indicating to drivers that there is a crosswalk right there.

I asked the city of Ft Collins about this crossing. They told me your query generated a robust email conversation among the team. Tyler Stamey, traffic engineer for the City of Fort Collins said for this specific crossing, the original pre-construction design didn’t include paint on the roadway or signage for drivers, but after I brought this crossing to the city’s attention, they might reconsider.

“I don’t have the complete history on this particular location, but our current practices include a detailed review of all active transportation modes to help provide the safest and most effective transportation facilities for our community. Hearing from community members about specific locations is a good signal for us to review the current conditions.”

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I’m told a typical review of a pedestrian crossing includes a site visit, sight distance evaluation, a review of the existing driving lanes, speed limits and crash history and collection of data like the number of pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicles using the crossing.

If the city determines there is a need to enhance the visibility of the crossing to drivers, I’m told it shouldn’t take too long to complete.

“Signs and paint can typically be installed relatively quickly. We have an in-house signs and paint crew. We typically begin our painting operations for the year in the spring when temperatures are increasing and the debris from the snow season is cleaned from the road surface. If the crossing needs more than signs and paint, it will take longer as the magnitude of cost goes up and needs to be prioritized and included in budget cycles or funded through grant opportunities,” Stamey said.

As for drivers being required to stop for a person in the crossing, yes, they are still required by Colorado law to stop for you in the crosswalk, even though drivers don’t have obvious visual clues that a person might be crossing the road here. In section 802.1 of Colorado’s model traffic code it states, “When traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.”

Even so, because this crossing doesn’t have those visual clues that a person might be in the roadway, you should be extra cautious crossing the street. In section 802.3 of the Colorado model traffic code it states, “No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and ride a bicycle, ride an electrical assisted bicycle, walk, or run into the path of a moving vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.”

Some municipalities have installed “State Law - Yield to Pedestrians” signs, or large, highly visible signs with yellow flashing strobe lights. But I’m told they are typically used in school zones, high traffic areas or at more high visibility marked crosswalks. They are not required by law though.

Stamey told me all city planners and traffic engineers understand that pedestrian safety is paramount at any street crossing and that is no different in Fort Collins.

“The City has future plans for a signalized crossing at the next intersection to the north, Lemay & Province/Nassau. In the meantime, we’re happy to evaluate crossing requests and have added this location to our list for review,” Stamey said.

Denver7 Traffic Expert Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 25 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook,Twitter or Instagram or listen to his Driving You Crazy podcast on any podcast app including iTunes, iHeartRadio, Spotify and Podbean.

Should a car stop when there isn’t a crosswalk but a sidewalk break?